President John Dramani Mahama has asked the leadership of the Catholic Church in West Africa to ensure that its social teachings influenced government policies.
He said for development to take place in Africa, there was the need for the leadership of the Christian community to align its teachings to directly address issues that posed a threat to nation building.
President Mahama made the call in a speech read on his behalf by a member of the Council of State and former Chief of Staff, Mr John Henry Martey Newman, at the opening ceremony of the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa in Accra on Tuesday.
About 150 Catholic bishops, archbishops and cardinals from West Africa are attending the one-week event, which is the second plenary assembly of the grouping referred to as the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA-CERAO).
It is a union of the Association of the Episcopal Conferences of Anglophone West Africa (AECAWA) and the Francophone Conférence Episcopale Régionale de l’Afrique de L’ouest (CERAO).
The theme for the plenary assembly is: “The New Evangelisation and the Specific Challenges for the Church, Family of God in West Africa: Reconciliation, Development, Family Life”.
President Mahama said it was time for the Christian community to lead by example, adding that “this is only possible when those of us who are called Christians live without reproach, above the worldly trappings of the present age”.
He said for the continent to attain its development goals, there was the need for religious institutions to preach the culture of tolerance and unity among the people.
“My government and the government in the past have enjoyed good working relations with all religious groups and collaborated with them in the areas of education, health and social development for the benefit of the people,” he said.
He said many parts of Africa and the world at large had countless heart-rendering tales of shattered development plans and broken homes because the citizens failed to forgive and forget when it mattered most.
President Mahama commended the Catholic Church for its contribution to the continent’s growth and urged it to continue to lead by example, teach and reprimand without fear or favour.
The Apostolic Nuncio in Ghana, the Most Rev Jean Marie Speich, for his part, underscored the need for the church to constantly speak out when the realities of the world did not correspond to the vision of the Gospel.
“This priority needs to involve all the faithful and is not only reserved for the bishops, the clergy or the religious,” he added.
The Most Rev Speich said it was the mission of the church to promote transformation, adding that “this must not be done by lobbying or electoral strategy but by inviting people into a relationship with Christ”.
In his welcome address, the President of the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference, the Most Rev Joseph Osei-Bonsu, said the conference would focus on brainstorming on the future development of the church in West Africa and how it could work together with African governments.